|Agriculture Practices in Lyles Station Community Early Years
Much of the history of Indiana revolves aroung man's lust for land, the acquisition of unconquered territories, and the eventual harnessing of its
The Lyles Station community settled before the mid-nineteenth century, and after the turn of the new century. The area was mostly unbroken
forest, with lots of game, and a good water supply.
A variety of factors affected one's selection of a farm site; fertility of soil, proximity to water sources, good drainage, the presence of vegetation
and timber, and proximity to other people, among others.
After constructing a basic shelter for his family, the farmer at Lyles Station began to clear trees from his land in order to plant crops, though
this process could continue for years until all the tillable soil had been cleared. An initial clearing could range from three to ten acres. Once
this was accomplished, the farmer could plow and plant his first crop, all with the hopes for an early harvest to supplement the meager supplies
brought on the move from the south.
From the beginning of settlement in Lyles Station, Gibson county, corn was a primary crop. Corn was grown throughout the state and provided
food for both man and livestock. After plowing and harrowing his fields, as best he could, the farmer planted seed kernels, possibly selecting
those that would produce at least two good ears per stalk. Because one grain of seed could produce hundreds of grains for food, only two
bushels of seed were needed to support a large family for a year. Once the corn had reached a height of 2-6 inches, careful harrowing and
hoeing was done. A field could yield nearly fifty bushels of corn per acre, if the farmer was willing to put in a good many long hard days in his
field, unaided by machinery.
Tommy Greer, David Hardiman, and Norman Greer
The melon industry helped to make the Lyles Station community famous. The sandy soil became very valuable for growing melons. During the
melon season, the Southern trains carried carload after carload of luscious cantaloupes and melons from Lyles Station to the Eastern markets.
Three varities of cantaloupes were grown-nutmeg, netted Rockyfords, and large netted. All the varieties sold very well, and they were marketed
in huge baskets which held on the average, eighteen melons, and the yield was from two to four hundred baskets per acre. The cantaloupe
season began about July 15th, and the melons brought about fifty cents per basket to the grower, later in the season the price dropped to
from twenty-five to twenty cents per bushel.
Watermelons began about August 1st. They were hauled in wagons to the market and about one hundred and twenty-five was a usual load.
The first ones shipped netted about 25 cents each. Watermelons averaged about two to three hundred per acre. The principal fertilizer used
was well rotted stable manure. The melon crop was generally plowed four times during cultivation, and additional care was used to keep out the
weeds and grass.
In the southern parts of Indiana, many forests existed, and provided families with a natural resource to help them survive, and make a living.
The families in Lyles Station community were very lucky to live near huge forest areas. Timber was a vital source for all early pioneers in
Indiana, and was an important commodity to own.
A timber market was operated by William Roundtree and James Cantrell of Lyles Station. Through their business many thousands of dollars were
put into circulation in the Lyles community. The timber trade sold railroad cross ties, logs, lumber, piling, and stave blocks. Stave blocks were
used for the manufacturing of cheap barrels. This was a big business at Lyles Station for over sixty years, and put thousands of dollars in the
hands of common workmen who needed jobs.
Workers were needed for sawing these trees, cutting them into blocks for barrel staves, and hauling and loading them into railroad cars for
shipping to factories. Cutting and hauling logs to the marketplace was a profitable business for many people. The forestry business played a
huge part in making Lyles Station into a prosperous community.
Another important crop was hay. Although the typical Indiana farmer may not have valued his hay as much as corn or wheat, the hay was a
vital source of food for the livestock. The best land on the farm was usually reserved for the primary crops, while hay was grown on poorer soil,
hillsides, and poorly drained areas.
Some farmers in the Lyles community raised hay, such as alfalfa, clover, and timothy during the early years. Those who did want to raise a
small herd of cattle or sheep, needed to provide hay and bedding for the winter months for their farm animals.
The hay was cut and left in the field to dry, then it was pitched by fork upon a wagon pulled be a team of mules, and brought to the barn.
There it was picked up by a large hay hook, with a pulley, which was attached to the beams near the roof of the barn. This large hook was
lowered into the hay on the wagon, and clamped tight, and then raised up to a track which ran to the barn loft, where the hay was dropped in
a heap. When the wagon was empty, another load was brought in. The mules helped with this method of unloading hay in the loft by pulling
the hay fork rope. This hay was fed to the animals during the winter months, or used for bedding in some cases. Making hay was a hot and
dirty job, and was done about twice a summer. Later the hay baler was invented, and the hay was tied into bales by twine, and then taken to
the barn to be stacked.
Hogs were the primary animal owned by Lyles Station farmers in the early nineteen hundreds. By 1849, Indiana ranked second only to Illinois in
the number of hogs per capita or per person.
Animals on Indiana's farms were very common, though they were not improved or purebreds. In the earliest years, animals were used for the
basic subsistence of the farm family. However, with the passage of time and the growth of a market economy, an ever-growing number of
farmers raised animals for market.
Many farmers spent several days each winter butchering hogs for their families' supply of meat. Every part of the hog was used in some way,
the head, body, feet, and the inside organs such as the heart and liver. A lot of these pieces were ground into sausage to be cooked in hot
lard, and then stored in jars. Some parts such as hams and bacon were placed into a smoke house, where they were smoked by a fire for
many hours after being salted down first. The smoked ham and bacon were prized by many city folks.
During the 1830's, American agricultural practices were affected by the growing "reform" movement. New scientific agriculturalists advocated the
testing and use of fertilizers, the introduction of improved pure-bred animals and plants, the use of labor-saving machines, and a generally
progressive and experimental type of farming. Many farm magazines contained articles on breeds and soil preparation, letters of inquiry from
readers, and advertisements for horse-powered threshers, patent plows, and assorted hand tools. Major improvements in farm equipment were
introduced in the mid to late 1830s. The first patent for a grain drill was granted in 1841, and the first combine was developed in 1836. John
Deere introduced his steel plow in 1837, which allegedly boosted plowing capabilities tenfold.
The Lyles Station farmers, along with all the farmers of southern Indiana started changing their farm practices as they were able to purchase
new machines to help save time.
In the late 1800's wheat did not require the intense cultivation of corn, but harvest was just as labor-intensive. Threshing grain could be done
by machine, treading by livestock, or manually by beating it with a flail. Threshing shattered the heads of the grain and removed it from the
straw. The final process of wheat processing was winnowing, where fanning mills separated the grain from the chaff .
Another way of harvesting grain was by using cradling scythes. It had a framework of wooden teeth attached to the blade which caught the
grain as it was cut. The grain had to be reaped before it was completely dry or it would shatter as it was cut and the grain would be lost. The
men of Lyles Station had to bundle and bound the wheat into sheaves which were stacked into shocks, which allowed the wheat to dry in the
field. When the wheat dried it was hauled to a granary in Princeton, Indiana or stored in a larger stack until it was threshed.
Brothers Joseph and Les Clift were the first men in the Lyles Station Settlement to own a threshing machine. They would take it to a central
location or to the farm where 6 to 8 men worked from sun up to sun down. The wheat was run into a horse drawn wagon. The farmers took
the stems or straw to the barn to help feed the animals through the winter. Nothing was thrown away. Any additional grain was sold at the
Lyles Station Grain Elevator. Lyles Station was known for their big threshing machine dinners where women would get together at the home
where the threshing was being done and they would prepare big dinners to feed the men.